Jennie Milner


Building a Birdhouse in Your Soul


sterling silver and copper

2 x 1.5 x .25"

photo credit: Zoe Milner

Building a Birdhouse in Your Soul is a brooch I made over a decade ago.  I have made tiny-home sculptures for 21 years.  The name comes from a song that They Might Be Giants wrote called ‘Build a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul’ (the lyrics are random and wonderful, but I still don’t think the song is saying anything at all).  I like that about the song and also about my work.  I like to try to function in a space where I can go ahead and make no sense at all, while alluding to something grand and hard to put your finger on.  In this brooch, I am alluding to self-care, Mom life, and the dream of home ownership.

South Pass City, a brooch made in 2018 is based on a little ghost town in Wyoming.  I lived about forty miles from South Pass City when my father was slipping into a self medicated form of mental illness that was never diagnosed, understood, or treated properly and eventually lead to his suicide in 1981, I was nine years old.  South Pass City is a mining ghost town between the town I lived and the oil rig that employed my Dad.  It’s where families hung on for dear life during the closing of the mine, dreams were stolen, and the grass is now the only living thing standing beside a few old structures that have been lovingly preserved.  Little known fact about South Pass City:  Women’s suffrage began here with Esther Hobart Morris, she was appointed Justice of the Peace February 1870, the first woman to hold public office in the nation.

Building a Birdhouse in Your Soul and South Pass City are both about the soul of a place.  The house is a keeper of one’s solitude, a vessel for every seemingly impossible event, and storage for precious items and junk.  Wearing a brooch like this is like bringing the stories right into the present for good or bad, it’s a story, and I love stories.

South Pass City


sterling silver, model grass, resin, acrylic

4 x 3 x .5

photo credit: Zoe Milner